Everybody rise! Ten new towers planned for the City of London skyline

The 32-storey tower at 85 Gracechurch Street would be another addition to the London skyline

The 32-storey tower at 85 Gracechurch Street would be another addition to the London skyline

Ten new skyscrapers are being planned in London’s financial center as a major sign of long-term economic confidence in the capital, the Standard may reveal.

The developers behind the eight skyscrapers are in confidential “pre-application” talks with the City of London Corporation, while two others have recently made formal applications.

Shravan Joshi, chairman of the city’s planning and transportation committee, told the Standard: “These are all significant buildings that will once again change the city’s skyline – or complete it.”

The applications, which have been made public, are for a 63-story development at 55 Bishopsgate – which at 285m (935ft) above sea level would be one of the highest in the Square Mile – and a 32-story tower at 85 Gracechurch Street, next to Leadenhall Market.

The city’s aim is to ensure that the schemes are “not just vanity” but have positive benefits for London and the wider UK.

But the 55 Bishopsgate project, which includes an adjacent 22-storey tower, has already drawn formal opposition from Historic England and Westminster council because of its potential impact on the protected views of St. Paul and a wider panorama of the city.

Aerial view of the proposed 55 Bishopsgate tower

Aerial view of the proposed 55 Bishopsgate tower

Most of the proposed skyscrapers are in the city’s “eastern cluster”, which already has Gherkin at 30 St Mary Axe, “Walkie Talkie” at 20 Fenchurch Street, “Cheesegrater” at 122 Leadenhall Street and “Scalpel” at 52 Lime Street among its monuments.

All new projects are at least 75 m (nearly 250 ft) tall, which meets the city’s definition of a “tall building”.

Mr Joshi said the number of applications this year exceeded those submitted in 2020 and 2021 and was an encouraging sign of Square Mile’s resilience after the pandemic.

“They continue regardless of the macroeconomic risks that exist,” he said. “It’s a point of confidence, not just in the current economic state, but in the longer term, that the City and London provide a secure base for real estate development.”

Demand, he said, is driven by “Grade A, really high-quality office space” – and not just from the financial services firms usually located in the city. He said new industries attracted to the Square Mile included technology, creative arts, media and education companies. Many of the proposed towers also had “anchor” tenants secured.

Mr Joshi declined to say whether the eight involved the controversial 16-storey skyscraper project on top of Liverpool Street station.

This is proposed by Sellar, whose Shard on London Bridge remains the capital’s tallest building at 310 m (1,017 ft).

55 Bishopsgate would be 10m shorter than 22 Bishopsgate, which was completed two years ago and is now the tallest building in the Square Mile.

A sky garden to rival that in a Walkie Talkie has been proposed as part of 55 Bishopsgate

A sky garden to rival that in a Walkie Talkie has been proposed as part of 55 Bishopsgate

Other skyscrapers already under construction include One Leadenhall, a 35-storey skyscraper just north of Leadenhall Market.

A 33-story tower was approved for 70 Gracechurch Street last year, a 150-metre (492 ft) tower at 50 Fenchurch Street was also approved, and another is proposed near the Walkie Talkie.

Historic England wants the proposed skyscraper at 55 Bishopsgate to be reduced in height. It said the current plan would “damage both the city’s historic environment and the wider London skyline”, in particular the views of St Paul’s from Waterloo Bridge and Whitehall looking across to St James’ Park Lake.

Mr. Joshi said the City Corporation, in setting planning applications, will protect historic buildings while trying to provide state-of-the-art workplaces.

“We need to strike a balance in the Square Mile,” he said. “We are not Manhattan in the sense that we have Roman history to preserve; we have historic buildings that we must take care of.

“We are responsible for maintaining this historic and cultural structure that makes Square Mile what it is.”

Asked about the scale of demand for new office space, he said Bloomberg’s “Pret Index”, which uses sandwich sales data to compare global cities, showed that London’s economy “came back tougher and stronger” than rivals such as New York and Tokyo.

This was supported by Transport for London passenger data showing that journeys were around 80 per cent normal, although fewer staff came to the office on Mondays and Fridays.

The City Corporation now requires developers to consider whether office buildings can be upgraded before allowing proposals that seek to demolish high-rise buildings to be considered.

“I think this is probably the biggest agenda item we’ll have to deal with in terms of planning in the world of commercial real estate,” said Joshi.

“We expect developers to come to us primarily with an argument about modernization. You must have a good case to explain why this building cannot be retrofitted and you cannot use existing embodied carbon to bring this building back to commercial condition.

“They need to overcome this hurdle before we move on to any pre-application discussion on development programs.”

Peter Murray, co-founder of New London Architecture, said the new designs were “good news” and challenged the perception that “everything has come to a standstill” due to the pandemic and economic downturn.

He said: “There are several reasons for this. One of them is the “escape to quality” – companies whose lease contracts are approaching fast, want to move to the newest offices and improve [staff] well-being.

“This means there will be second-hand office space, which is a bit more problematic. But there is a feeling between them [property] agents in the city that when these new buildings are completed in five years, instead of excess office space, there will be a shortage.

“Businesses in Canary Wharf like HSBC are looking at their location and looking for something smaller. Maybe the City of London will become more attractive as a location for larger corporations.”

He said 300p The anniversary of Sir Christopher Wren’s death next year will bring visitors from all over the world to London.

“The City of London is very different from most European ‘old cities’ like Madrid, Rome and Paris, which are kept in jelly and pretty much untouched,” Murray said. “The City of London has always been responsive to business needs.”

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